The novel is set largely during the last days and immediate post-war years of WWII, in the British and Soviet Zones (later German Democratic Republic) of Berlin. Hermine (whose name comes from a novel by Hermann Hesse, proscribed by the Nazis) marries an English academic, Duncan, who encourages her to write her own account. This relates to her complicated experience of (English) Michael, his brother Henry (Heinrich), her German father Wartmann and others. Falling in love with Henry, she heartily dislikes Michael, whose only desire is to seduce as many women as possible. From the Preface: "If one looks at the events leading to World War Two and resulting from it, it is all too easy to condemn the Germans. How could a highly civilized people have turned to the doctrine of Fascism as dictated by a vicious racist and psychopath? All of this, though, leads to a more basic question: could I, had I been brought up in a different society, ever have behaved in a similar fashion?” "Henry found himself dreaming: "Oh I'm clever, oh I'm great. I rule. Eurore shudders at my might. I the Fuhrer, the artist they rejected: fools like all rest. I the people, I the nation, I the leader. Cheering me, admiring, fearing me. . . A Berlin of the mind, split between East and West, two hemispheres, left and right, now with an irrevocable dividing wall and the greatest tension at the crossover from one side to another. A peaceful man, a dull man even ... A house in the country, and if I had children there'd be... what is it? . . . 1.7 of them. And there were no signposts. That was the thing about wartime Britain too: so as not to assist the enemy should he invade across the divide all the signs were removed.” From Chapter One, Hermine:” I was raised in a concentration camp, without which my whole story would have been different. North of Berlin, Ravensbrück was specifically for women and, of course, their children. You can visit the museum there today and see the memorial, which was set up by the Soviets when Berlin was part of East Germany, and part of my story too."